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Year-end banquet celebrates accomplishments and awards

(5/06/03)

The UIC Flames family gathered together at Moretti’s Ultimate Sports Bar on the near-West side Monday night to celebrate another successful men’s basketball season.

About 300 people, including the team, coaches, support staff, administrators, families and fans attended the awards ceremony.

The biggest honor of the night went to the entire team, which won the Horizon League’s Community Service award. The men’s basketball was the only team at UIC to participate in the athletic department’s three major community service operatives—Chris Zorich’s Thanksgiving function, a hospital kids party and a Special Olympics clinic.

UIC had much to celebrate in 2002-03, including the completion of its first back-to-back 20-win seasons in school history and its first-ever NIT appearance. The Flames finished 21-9 overall and 12-4 in the Horizon League.

“Winning 20 games in consecutive years isn’t easy,” UIC athletic director Jim Schmidt said. “I have to credit the coaching staff. I can’t think of a better environment for [the student-athletes] to be put in a position to be successful.”

Coach Jimmy Collins said this year’s team had the most camaraderie of any he’s coached.

“This is the first time I’ve had a group of young people like this,” Collins said. “The sky is the limit for these guys. We everybody coming back, except three (Jonathan Schneiderman, Kyle Kickert and Corry Tibbs). And we got more guys coming in on top of that. Most of these guys were basically sophomores and freshmen.”

For the second straight year, Collins applauded his three seniors for graduating. Last year all six seniors earned the degrees.

As for the awards, senior guard Schneiderman garnered three trophies, including the Citizenship Award, the Top Free-Throw Shooter Award and the Purple Heart Award.

Junior guard Martell Bailey was the team MVP Award winner and the Assists Leader Award winner. Bailey was the nation’s top assist man with 8.1 per contest.

“This award [the MVP] has little to do with stats,” said Andrew Haring, the team’s director of basketball operations. “I know the Bears try to dispute, but the quarterback is the most important position in football. In basketball, the quarterback is the point guard and that is Martell Bailey.”

Junior forward Armond Williams earned the Top Rebounder and Most Improved Player honors. Williams finished the season, shooting a school-record 64 percent from the field.

Cedrick Banks, the Flames’ leading scorer and lone Horizon League First-Team member, won the team’s Hustle Award.

“He’s a got a motor that never stops,” Haring said of the Flames’ superstar.

CHUCKLES: Senior forward Kyle Kickert made an amusing gesture when Andrew Haring began to announce the accolades for the team’s Top Free Throw Shooter Award. Just before Haring was to announce Schneiderman as the winner, Kickert started to rise to his feet, eliciting a guffaw from the fans in attendance. Free-throw shooting was the weakest part of Kickert’s game, as the 6-foot 8-inch center made well below 50 percent of his shots.

Coach Collins on the Kickert when he wanted to be a walk-on after coming from Wisconsin-Milwaukee two years ago: “He’s 6-8, 265 pounds. ‘No’ is not a part of your vocabulary.”

Collins when he took the podium for the first time (the podium was a mini Disc Jockey area, complete with sound and music controls): “You know I used to be a D.J. at one time. ‘Raise your hands in the air!’ They used to call me ‘Jazzy Jim Collins.’ ”

In other recent news:
Flame tidbits: Recruiting update, Farmer signs with Vikings (4/29/03)
Western Illinois coaching search includes Coomes (4/12/03)
News, notes and observations from around the Horizon League (4/09/03)
ALUMNI UPDATE: Ford and Miller find success overseas (4/03/03)
Butler does Horizon League proud (plus recruiting update) (3/28/03)
Flames' recruiting update (3/26/03)
FORMER FLAME UPDATE: Hallberg, Brown, Solverson (3/21/03)
Comeback effort falls short, season over for UIC (3/19/03)
Off to Kalamazoo: Flames brace for Western Michigan (3/18/03)
Flames invited to "Little Dance" for first time (3/17/03)